Historically, New Orleans has had a high crime rate when compared to other American cities. Murders peaked in the mid-1990s, fell off, and then began to rise again in 2015.
“The 35 murders through last Friday represent a 94 percent jump compared to the same period in 2014 … Just as worrisome, the rise in deadly violence comes as the number of NOPD homicide detectives is at its lowest in five years -- raising questions about the department's ability to effectively handle the murder caseload. At stake could be the city's hope of extending a three-year decline in murders.”
— Ken Daley, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
City dwellers have read and heard so much about this topic over the years I would not be surprised if they become inured to the warnings.
I understand. It’s easy to get lulled into thinking crime is just a statistic that trends up or down. Rather than use numbers, I wish we could plot crime rates with pictures — of the deceased, the many victims and perps — because crime is not a statistic but a never-ending story of needless loss, grief and survival. It’s measured in pints of blood, in terrified voices screaming for help, and in the deep wounds suffered by the body and soul.
The Face of Crime
Statistics also don’t describe the evolving personality of crime. We see categories and assume the rapes and other types of assaults committed over time are all basically the same. Not so.
In early July in downtown New Orleans a man pulled out an automatic pistol and began shooting at a moving car. This was mid-day, in broad daylight. The sidewalks were crowded with pedestrians — witnesses — and the busy streets were jammed with motorists. This type of behavior is not typical of our city’s history of crime. It is incredibly brazen.
We live in a time when all eyes are watching. Surveillance cameras are numerous and, thankfully, capture the faces and activities of those who do wrong. But the technology didn’t stop the shooter from pulling out a weapon and spraying the street with bullets.
It would seem the shooter didn’t give a damn about being caught. And we will catch him. It’s inevitable. We have a video clip of his performance. Someone will turn him in, for money or revenge, or he’ll simply run out of hiding places. He’ll likely be convicted, sentenced to prison time and then what? Return to his life of crime and begin the cycle all over again?
100 State Troopers
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has order 100 state troopers to patrol the French Quarter. He fears this new rise in crime will harm tourism.
“New Orleans witnessed its 100th murder of 2015 a week ago. A 29 year-old local man was shot in his car in the French Quarter. The city did not see it’s 100th murder last year until late August. New Orleans had seen a decline in its murder rate the past three years.”
— JesseHardman, New Orleans Public Radio
Can’t blame him. If the presence of the troopers deters robberies, assaults and murder then city officials will likely find a way to fund this type of policing in 2016 and beyond.
But if it has no impact it may be an indication that criminals have quickly morphed into an even more threatening posture than brazen.
Robert Sterling Hecker